I’ve lived in England for nearly 24 years, so I am often asked whether I’m an anglophile. I’m not, but I am a Londonphile (if such a word exists). In fact, I’m generally an urban person, rather than a country one.
One of my frustrations and fears about London, however, has been the prevailing climate in the UK of preservation at all costs, and fear of the new. In the last decade this has moderated somewhat — London has some good new buildings and a few extraordinary urban interventions (London Eye and Millennium Bridge) — but the conservation instinct remains high.
So I’m immensely cheered by the announcement today of mayor Ken Livingstone’s draft London Plan. The plan recognises that London both needs to and will continue to grow in coming years (to 8.1 million people by 2016). More people mean a need for more jobs and far better infrastructure, notably in housing, transport and education. The mayor’s plan accounts for all of this. It will undoubtedly provoke a storm of outrage from those who hate tall buildings and want to preserve a city in aspic. I’m reasonably confident that the plan, or something a lot like it, will win through and keep London a living, vital place.